Paige Borden, EdD
Assistant Vice President
Driving institutional knowledge
University staff members can access, analyze information to make better decisions
Former US President John F. Kennedy once said: " The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge and the dissemination of truth." And at the University of Central Florida, the advancement of knowledge and dissemination of truth is not limited to libraries and lecture halls. In fact, it's the very lifeblood of the institution, which is using SAS® Business Analytics to provide university administrators with fast access to data and information to support key decisions and better serve students.
At the University of Central Florida (UCF) – the second-largest public university in the US – the Institutional Knowledge Management unit, which includes the departments of Enterprise Decision Support and Institutional Research, is responsible for the development and maintenance of the university's data warehouse and reporting systems, and facilitates the access, creation and dissemination of data and information to the university community.
Based on the information backbone created by the Institutional Knowledge Management team, the university's business analyst, academic and administrative decision makers can get answers to the questions that drive decisions about students, programs, resources and facilities.
"We use the information in various ways," says Paige Borden, EdD, Assistant Vice President of Institutional Knowledge Management. "Internally, the unit supports administrators – such as deans and departmental directors – and, externally, it keeps community and government constituents apprised of school performance. Ultimately, our team supports the expansion of knowledge through actionable information, as a foundation for decision making, policy formation and institutional excellence."
According to Borden, before implementing SAS Business Analytics, data was housed in multiple locations, including legacy systems and the current ERP system. It could take her staff anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to provide information to people both internally and externally. Also, the ability to view multiple years of data simultaneously was limited, making trend analysis difficult.
"We were looking from year to year and couldn't see the changes occurring across multiple years," she explains. "Now, we're not limited to single-term reports. So whether it's data on enrollment, credit hours, retention, degrees or grades, almost everything we provide shows multiple years' or terms' worth of information to support decision making."
Another issue was that users couldn't easily do their own analyses.
"Our deans couldn't sit at their desks and drill down into the data," she continues. "Now our business users can create custom reports, and run simple and complex reports instantly. Internal users can also transfer the data to other software products, continue to manipulate the information as needed and prepare a report – they don't depend upon us for final results."
Internal users can now press a single button to get five years' worth of data, see trend information and look at data in detail or at a high level … without SAS it would take us much longer to develop reports.
Paige Borden, EdD
Knowledge at the click of a button
Borden's department has also made data and reporting available to administration, management and staff through its Pegasus Mine Information Portal. Developed using SAS, the portal is available to all full-time faculty members and staff members.
"Internal users can now press a single button to get five years' worth of data, see trend information, and look at data in detail or at a high level," says Linda Sullivan, EdD, Director of Enterprise Decision Support. "It's immediately available at the click of a button, as opposed to waiting for a developer to prepare the data and post it as a static report. Today, we create the dynamic report once, and it continues to provide updated information to the users without additional developer involvement – the time saved from that alone is amazing."
Sullivan says that the data warehouse and information portal have generated a lot of attention and support many satisfied users.
"One of our college deans looked at something that we demonstrated and said: 'We just spent six months trying to collect this information, and here it is at the click of a mouse'," recounts Sullivan. "We've reduced a lot of the time that people spent just collecting data, and we're confident that the people using the system are now reporting from the same validated information."
Recently, the Institutional Knowledge Management unit collaborated on a graphical business intelligence dashboard. Developed by the College of Business Administration, it tracks key financial performance indicators down to the departmental level to help support decisions related to budget projections, as well as costs related to projects, staffing and supplies.
"The dashboard has been very beneficial to the administration of the college; you can see where you're at from a budget position in real time," says Taylor Ellis, PhD, Associate Dean of Academic Programs and Technology at the UCF College of Business. "In the past we would get a monthly printout with a three- to four-week delay; you were never really sure where you were. Users, such as the dean and department chairs, appreciate seeing their budget position and can make better decisions. There are no surprises at the end of the year now in terms of budgets running out. We're making smarter decisions on expenditures related to staffing and courses to help students get the credits they need to graduate in a timely manner."
Saving time and effort
And, according to Borden and Sullivan, they've also collaborated with the Registrar's Office to save time and effort by automating daily enrollment reports. Following the completion of the testing, the reports will be available through the Pegasus Mine Information Portal – reducing the amount of time to run a report from hours to seconds.
“For a number of years they were collecting data and running reports every morning,” explains Sullivan. “They would send those reports in Excel or PDF by email to various groups of administrators on a daily or weekly basis. We suggested putting the reports out on the information portal. The Access applications were converted to SAS functionality, and the reports are now running on a daily basis and are being piloted in the information portal.
"Additionally, all the historical data is in one place, allowing users to go back and look at historical reports – they didn't have that capability before. They have enhanced the flow of information, while significantly reducing the amount of time and effort."
So why SAS?
"Without SAS it would take us much longer to develop reports for end users," says Sullivan. "We would be concerned about applying data definitions across a variety of data sources. If we didn't have the ability to generate reports and deliver them through the portal, we'd potentially struggle with some university security policies related to dissemination of data via email. I could see us being in a more limited environment, where information that's accessible now would not be available to all of our current users.
“There's several reasons why SAS is our product of choice,” concludes Sullivan. “The first is the data integration. We’re able to pull data from multiple sources, such as static warehouse tables, live transaction data and data mart information, and it’s seamless from a user perspective. Another example is the volume and flexibility of the business intelligence tools available to us. If you’re doing complex reporting, you can use SAS Enterprise Guide® – you do not have to be a SAS developer to use the BI tools. And because it’s all within a single environment, you get efficiency in server usage, data gathering and report production, as well as flexibility across all end-user skill sets – it’s been very valuable to us.”
The university wanted administrators and managers to be able to access and analyze information to help them make strategic proactive decisions.
The university's SAS information portal provides easy access to data from multiple sources; efficient self-service report generation; multiyear trending and multidimensional analysis; real-time budget data and reports; and increased data security.